Rebuild, or else
NE THING seems to be clear from the drama that has played out around the Cosatu executive’s decision to expel Numsa: it presents an opportunity to rebuild. And the question of who should be rebuilding, and how, is more than just a matter of politics.
In fact, too much politics is the main reason why Cosatu looks like it is finally unravelling after real trouble was held at bay at its key congress of 2012.
At that event, Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini invoked the valiant spirits of worker heroes Violet Seboni, Alina Rantsolase and Chris Dlamini. But even as he spoke against a breach in the federation, knives were out for outspoken general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. Complementary to Vavi was Numsa’s increasingly independent view, while other bodies, including the National Union of Mineworkers, were drawing closer to the ANC’s political elite.
Yet we need to go further back, to the ruling party’s Polokwane conference in 2007, when Jacob Zuma was elected president, to see how Cosatu may have lost sight of devoting itself to worker issues. Already then, it was becoming a political gamechanger beyond its role as an alliance partner.
So, in the end, there must be rebuilding, not only for worker unions, but also from inside the ANC. To paraphrase WB Yeats, can the centre hold?